Stocking up on hitoe

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Grey tsumugi hitoe

When I started out collecting kimono, it wasn’t really with the idea of wearing them, so much as displaying them – hence the uchikakes and furisodes in my collection.

But after a while of wearing only haoris over jeans, etc, I got the urge to wear kimono more often. The problem is, many of them are somewhat formal, which makes them difficult to manoeuvre in – after all, you don’t do the housework in a ballgown.

That problem was solved by buying more everyday kimono, such as meisen, but then you’re still stuck with the problem of cleaning them. Enter the hitoe – the unlined kimono.

My first hitoe were wool, which I wear in winter over thermal underwear or even over normal clothing. This is lovely and warm – it’s like layering a dressing gown over your clothes. This winter, if it’s anything like the last few, I aim to wear bra and pants, thermal undies from Five Seasons (the Superwoman set), a fleece polo and pull-on pants, and a wool kimono to brighten things up.

I already had five – a broken stripe in red, green and blue wool tsumugi; a navy gabardine with Edo houses on it; a purple tsumugi with grey kikko; a heavy black tsumugi with a zigzag stripe and matching haori, and a lovely mustard fine wool with orange and green stripes.

Yellow wool kasuriOrange shippou wool

In addition to this, I have just added another five from Shinei, taking advantage of his summer sale: this yellow kasuri-pattern wool tsumugi; this orange wool tsumugi with green shippou (which Shinei says is a print, though it is pretending to be a woven); this autumn maples one, which I think is just gorgeous; this blue-grey one, very heavy, with multicoloured mist; and this subdued woven stripe in brown, but which in close-up has the most beautifully detailed weave with colours of beige, black, red, white, blue and yellow. Also on its way, in another batch is a fabulous subdued, dark wool kimono with a multicolour haze motif in shades of red, pink, blue, turquoise, black, white, yellow, green and purple(!).

Blue-grey misty woolNavy wool with maples

The great advantage of wool kimono is that they can be washed at home. I just chuck mine in a lingerie bag and do them on wool wash.

Hazy wool kimonoBrown stripe kimono

The same, obviously, applies to yukata, and I have also invested lately in a couple of silk tsumugi hitoe to go with my meisen hitoe for the same reason. Hitoe are not much worn any more in Japan, because most women don’t have an extensive kimono wardrobe, so they make do with awase (lined) kimono, usumono (ro and sha) and yukata, adding a juban to a yukata to posh it up if necessary.

However, I find my meisen hitoe just lovely on days that are warm but not hot, or on days with a chilly wind, as they are tightly woven and don’t allow the air through, in contrast to ro and sha kimono. They also act as a great underlayer between juban and a top-layer kimono for the Meiji three-layer effect.

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